Tag Archives: cycling

Singapore- Gettin In and Bikin’ Around

124.2 kilometers in 3 days

(1 day of futzing around buses and trucks, 1 day of futzing around Singapore)

2,552 kilometers SO FAR

This was what we were working towards- a park full of metaltrees!
This was what we were working towards- a park full of metaltrees!

Getting In:

Day 42- July 16,2015- Gelang Patah to Johor Bahru

85 kilometers (some by bus, some by durian delivery truck…)

Because we were coming from the west (Melakka) we figured it would be easiest to cross into Malaysia via their western border crossing at Tuas. The following is why that was a bad idea, but why we couldn’t have known until we tried.

The meal we thought would be our last in Malaysia. Roti Canai with eggs and iced coffees.
The meal we thought would be our last in Malaysia. Roti Canai with eggs and iced coffees.

We based ourselves outside of Gelang Patah which is collection of empty but hopeful suburbs and strip malls 15 kilometers from the Tuas border into Singapore. Since we were so close we took our time leaving in the morning, spent the last of our Malaysian ringgits on a really good breakfast, and started cycling. Gelang Patah is connected to the rest of Malaysia and Singapore by a massively confusing network of highways which is lined with even emptier, quiet suburbs and strip malls.

The highway that was marked "no bicycles". Surely they couldn't have meant us...
The highway that was marked “no bicycles”. Surely they couldn’t have meant us…

After winding around those highways we finally turned onto an on-ramp that had a pretty clear “no bicycles” sigh, but it was the only highway to the border. There was a good shoulder for us to ride on, and we were only 10 kilometers from the border, we had to push on.

We had read on multiple blogs that it was easy to take bicycles across the border- just follow the motorbikes. So we pulled up to the Malaysia exit window meant for motorbikes and were turned around.

“Bicycles aren’t allowed to cross this border. It’s not safe.”

This seemed ridiculous, we’d already biked 10 kilometers down a really stupid highway to get here, we weren’t about to get turned around. So he suggested we try to go with a bus. Fine. We biked down to the bus section. The bus crossing at that moment wouldn’t take us- this seemed like it was up to the driver’s discretion as the border officials fully approved this idea. At this point the immigration officers said we had two options. Either turn around and bike back into Malaysia or try to fit our bicycles into the back of a lorry. They had no problem letting us bike through, but the Singapore side is supposedly really strict and you can’t cross this border unless you’re in a vehicle.

Just our bikes waiting for  a truck to take us over to Singapore.
Just our bikes waiting for a truck to take us over to Singapore.

So we tried, as a last resort, the lorries. We met an immigration officer named Poo who helped us find a rickety truck full of durians that has agreed to take us and our bicycles in the back of his truck. Poo made it pretty clear that once we were in Singapore we were on our own. But his biggest concern was whether the strong stench of the durian would bother us.

Loading our bikes into the back of that kind durian truck that offered to take us.
Loading our bikes into the back of that kind durian truck that offered to take us.

We loaded everything into the truck and set off across the causeway to Singapore! This actually felt like it was working. And how perfect would it have been to arrive in Singapore in a truck full of its national fruit? Too perfect apparently…

Our bikes inside the durian truck.
Our bikes inside the durian truck.

Just before we finished crossing the bridge into Singapore the truck driver pulled over to the side of the road and opened the back. Apparently this is where we were supposed to get off. And while we appreciated his efforts we couldn’t help but think they’re a little half-assed. Still, at this point there was no way Singapore immigration would turn us around. It’d be less safe for us to cycle back into Malaysia than to just continue on into Singapore. Right?

Maybe not quite as welcoming as it looked...this was taken about 1 minute before we were turned back.
Maybe not quite as welcoming as it looked…this was taken about 1 minute before we were turned back.

Wrong.  A cross looking immigration officer has positioned himself to great us at the bottom of this bridge. And by great I mean promptly turn us away because there was no way they could accept bicycles through this border. He offered to “escort” us to the other side of the highway where he watched us bike back over that bridge to get an entrance stamp to Malaysia only twenty minutes after we got the departure stamp.

We had no more Malaysian money, two new Malaysia stamps in our passport, and no idea how to get into this tiny island of a country. We found a bus that was willing to take us back to Johor Bahru- where the other entrance to Singapore is located. From there we figured we could find a bus that would take us and our bikes into Singapore since apparently we’re not cycling across. Johor Bahru is just as confusing as the town we started in. We cycle to the border crossing from Johor Bahru which seems identical to the other one we already failed at that day. It’s 5pm, there’s a ton of traffic, it was very hilly, and we don’t know if the border is even still open and have no reason to believe this is going to go any better than our last attempt to get into Singapore.

So instead of trying to cross that night and having to arrive in Singapore after dark we find a cheap dirty hotel, which was made even more miserable by the fact that we weren’t supposed to be sleeping in Malaysia that night. We were only 30 kilometers away from where we had started that day.

We fell asleep to the sounds of fireworks going off all over the city to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Day 43- July 17, 2015- Johor Bahru to Singapore (finally)

39.2 kilometers

We spent our night doing research on how to cycle into Singapore. We had obviously done this research before but clearly we had missed something. There were blogs of cyclists who had done it, even a video of what the crossing on a bicycle. All of this was from Johor Bahru. But the official Singapore immigration site made no distinction between the Tuas and Johor Bahru border. The point is- yesterday was not entirely our fault and we will continue to blame Singapore just a little bit.

Kiri sitting on a bus on the way to another Singapore border.
Kiri sitting on a bus on the way to another Singapore border.

We found a bus that would take us to the border. And it dropped us off almost exactly where we had turned around the day before. Only this time an immigration officer met us, and pointed us towards the motorbike section, assuring us that we could cycle into Singapore. Just to make sure we asked him a couple of times.

The lovely causeway connecting Malaysia to Singapore that we were allowed to use!
The lovely causeway connecting Malaysia to Singapore that we were allowed to use!

And sure enough after getting a stamp, and cycling across a bridge in a lane that had welcoming signs for motorbikes and bicycles, we were getting our passports stamped into Singapore. So it really was just that easy. But again, how were we supposed to know?

There are a few ironic things about this map:

  1. The route we originally attempted, you know, the one where we were turned back at the border, is actually longer than the alternative route that would have put us at the border we needed to be at to cross via bicycle.
  2. Just to recap- it should have taken no more than 48 kilometers to get into Singapore from Gelang Patah- it took us 124…..

DO NOT TRY TO BIKE THROUGH THE TUAS BORDER TO SINGAPORE!!!

 

DSC06144Cycling into Singapore is easy as long as you stay off the freeway and you really don’t want to be on the freeway. It is actually illegal to cycle on the freeway in Singapore, we found out later.  There are parkways and sidewalks and paths and the traffic is really respectful of cyclists. This is probably because for the first time in over a month we weren’t the only cyclists on the road.

Singapore skyline at dusk.
Singapore skyline at dusk.

We got to our hostel, got moved into our “pods” (read: cozy individual caves with reading lamps), and set out to explore Singapore.

The Merlion spitting into the bay!
The Merlion spitting into the bay!

That night we wandered through a garden full of real beautiful plants and artificial towering metal trees. We visited the Merlion- the symbol of Singapore that has the head of a lion and the body of a fish rendering it the most useless mystical creature I’ve ever heard of.

A free (and romantic) evening of jazz.
A free (and romantic) evening of jazz.

We stumbled upon a free jazz concert over the harbor as the sun was setting, and then ended up finding a good and cheap meal in Chinatown.

The Singapore skyline at night!
The Singapore skyline at night!

Day 43 and 44- July 18 and 19, 2015

Good incentive not to ride where they tell you not to.
Good incentive not to ride where they tell you not to.

Singapore is known for having a great network of cycling and running trails across the country/city. Since we had come here on bicycles we figured it would be a waste to not use them in this city.

Biking around a park on a Saturday- more like amateur hour with everyone out on the paths.
Biking around a park on a Saturday- more like amateur hour with everyone out on the paths.

So we spent an afternoon figuring out some of these trails and park connectors until we found ourselves at the south eastern shore sharing the really well-made trail with roller-bladers, other more serious cyclists, 4-person cycle-buggys, and kids on tricycles. It felt like we were just out for a ride in the park back in the States.

Finishing our day of cycling around Singapore in front of the prettier parts of the skyline.
Finishing our day of cycling around Singapore in front of the prettier parts of the skyline.
Singapore was getting ready to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The day we were there  they were putting on a  military show.
Singapore was getting ready to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The day we were there they were putting on a military show.

Another thing Singapore is known for is their Zoo. So the next day we had to get out there before we packed up to fly to Cambodia. And it lived up to it’s hype. Probably the highlight was the elephant show where the elephants shot water at the crowd through their trunks, stole their keepers hats, all lay down for a nap together, and then got up and bowed at the end. But all of it was pretty cool.

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Just an orangutan lazin' away the day at the zoo.
Just an orangutan lazin’ away the day at the zoo.
The happiest elephant I've ever seen- just look at that smile!
The happiest elephant I’ve ever seen- just look at that smile!

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And then it was time to leave. Singapore is more expensive than the rest of Southeast Asia and we didn’t have the money to spend more than two full days there. We had eaten as cheaply as possible in Chinese food courts and had found the cheapest hostel we could. We spent a day riding our bikes around which is free. So we spent as little as we could. Still it was time to go.

Getting out:

Singapore was something of the end of the line for us. We had made it all the way down the peninsula and we still had two weeks of our trip left. Indonesia wasn’t a possibility since Bali’s airport was shut down because a volcano wouldn’t stop spewing ash that was interfering with the airplanes. So we bought plane tickets to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, figuring we could throw together a good 2-week cycling route there before heading back to Bangkok.

Carrying the bike boxes we got back to our hostel.
Carrying the bike boxes we got back to our hostel.

Flying with bicycles was a new thing to both of us. We hadn’t found a bike store in Singapore that could box our bikes in less than a week, and had only found one store that would give us bike boxes to do it ourselves. So for our last night we took over our hostels ground floor to almost entirely take apart our bikes so they could fit into the small bike boxes we had gotten from this store.

Kiri's bike- almost totally disassembled.
Kiri’s bike- almost totally disassembled.

We took handlebars off, kickstand off, rear rack and seat off. We removed the front stem, wheels, tires, and tubes from Kiri’s bike to force it into the smaller of the bike boxes, and even then it was a tight squeeze.

After three hours, covered in grease and sweat, the bikes were boxed, our bags were packed, and we were ready to fly!

Finishing boxing the bikes at 9pm- yes the headlamp was necessary.
Finishing boxing the bikes at 9pm- yes the headlamp was necessary.

Next stop: Cambodia!

Waiting at the Singapore airport with all our boxes!
Waiting at the Singapore airport with all our boxes!
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Last Week in Malaysia- Jerantut to Gelang Patah

486.5 kilometers in 5 days of cycling

2,427.8 kilometers so far!!!

Day 35- July 9, 2015- Jerantut to Temerloh

73 km

Just some more truck rolling through the countryside.
Just some more truck rolling through the countryside.

Cycling through the middle of Malaysia was definitely a different experience from cycling along the coast. We were glad we had chosen to leave the coast for our last week in Malaysia. The terrain was a little more varied with some rolling hills and the occasional jungle thrown in there, all surrounded by palm oil forests of course.

The chinese restaurants were also our only chance of finding beer in this country.
The Chinese restaurants were also our only chance of finding beer in this country.

Also now that we were further from the North we were noticing more diversity i.e. Chinese people who would keep their restaurants open all day. All of a sudden we didn’t have to rely on our hotel to give us breakfast and peanut butter and jelly by the side of the road for lunch. These previous staples were replaced by Chinese noodle soups and overly-sweetened tea.

Mike got his fourth flat tire on the same tire in about as many days today. We either weren’t changing them properly or he was getting really unlucky, but something wasn’t right. After some closer inspection we found that his rear tires treads were almost completely worn down. Any debris on the side of the highway could pierce through that, and they were. So we rolled into Temerloh looking for a bicycle shop. So far it had been easy to find bicycle shops in even the smallest towns in Malaysia and Temerloh was no exception. He got a new tire, a new tube, and we found a place to sleep. That tire got no more punctures for the rest of the trip.

 

The "Happy Homestay" we stayed at. And their probably "hopefully" inadvertent shout out to "The Shining"
The “Happy Homestay” we stayed at. And their probably “hopefully” inadvertent shout out to “The Shining”

That night we were taken out to dinner by a Malaysian guy who was studying at a university in London and was just home for the summer break to make some money. He took us to an apparently famous fish restaurant to break our fast, answered a couple of the questions about Malaysian and Muslim culture that we had after cycling here for two weeks. These are the kinds of interactions you get to have when the language barrier isn’t as much of an issue, which it isn’t in Malaysia.

Day 36- July 10, 2015- Temerloh to Bahau

95.5 km

Trucks carrying entire trees past us!
Trucks carrying entire trees past us!

This was one of those days where we had one road we could take, there were no other options that would have helped us avoid this pretty miserable stretch.

Palm oil being carried out of the forests.
Palm oil being carried out of the forests.

We spent the day cycling up and down seemingly endless rolling hills along a road that was made for one purpose – to connect palm oil plantations to the rest of Malaysia. We shared the road with trucks and lorys carrying huge logs and palm oil berries all day. It felt like with every new hill we climbed they just creeped closer and closer to us. It was a long, hot, exhausting day.

Cheesin' with the Malaysian cop who pulled us over for the photo op!
Cheesin’ with the Malaysian cop who pulled us over for the photo op!

The highlight of the day, and probably one of our top 5 highlights of Malaysia, happened around the middle of the day when a police car pulled Mike over, only because they wanted to take a picture with us! We doubt that they see many cyclists come through these parts.

Day 37- July 11, 2015- Bahau to Melakka

100 km

Kiri cycling past a herd of buffalo.
Kiri cycling past a herd of buffalo.

Today was more hills also, but this time they were going in our direction. 100 kilometer days go by much faster when you’re easily cruising downhill into your destination which also happens to be one of the coolest places you have stopped at in Malaysia.

Our last truck picture I promise!
Our last truck picture I promise!

The last 20 km before getting into Melaka were back to large 4 lane highway with lots of traffic. We found that if you just stick with the motorcyclists (are there are lots of them) the cars will respect your space. We rolled in, found a great guest house: Tony’s. It was right in the thick of the historical district and a perfect place to start our weekend off in Melaka!

Day 39 and 39- see SIDE TRIP TO MELAKKA

 

Day 40- July 14, 2015- Melaka to Batu Pahat

110 kilometers

A beautiful backroad that actually looked like it could take us somewhere...it didn't, we had to backtrack for 5k, but still worth it.
A beautiful backroad that actually looked like it could take us somewhere…it didn’t, we had to backtrack for 5k, but still worth it.

Our guest house in Melaka was known for its breakfasts cooked by the owner himself so we weren’t about to skip one of those, which gave us a later start time than we wanted. This day was another flat relatively uneventful day of cycling.

Rambutan trees that were lining road.
Rambutan trees that were lining road.

We cycled past tons of marshes and farmlands that had small paved footpaths winding through them. In the morning we took a couple of these that looked like they were going in direction we wanted them to go in, and so ended up doing an extra 10 kilometers of backtracking when they dropped us off in the middle of nowhere – typical Malaysia. Still today for the first time in Malaysia there were a couple of side roads that kept us off the highway, it was probably because of a higher density of people living along this part of the coast.

Kiri with our free rambutans that we had been gifted from a Malaysian guy on a motorbike.
Kiri with our free rambutans that we had been gifted from a Malaysian guy on a motorbike.

When we were on one of the country highways we got two free bushels of rambutans from a generous stranger on a motorbike. All in all, a really nice day.

Day 41- July 15, 2015- Batu Pahat to Gelang Patah

108 kilometers

A close up of what palm oil looks like straight off the tree.
A close up of what palm oil looks like straight off the tree.

Unlike yesterday this day kept us on the highway the entire trip. It was a long day, we started later than we wanted to, and couldn’t really afford to waste time back tracking on backroads. This last stretch of Malaysia was different than the other parts we had cycled in. We were going through large beautiful suburbs filled with massive houses that connected larger port towns. There was clearly some money down here. After all, we were getting closer and closer to Singapore, and we figured since Singapore is such a small and expensive country it would only make sense for people to live in and commute from cheaper Malaysia.

Another shot of an early-evening market we rolled by and got our first dinner at.
Another shot of an early-evening market we rolled by and got our first dinner at.

We arrived in Gelang Patah around dusk hoping to find some hodgepodge of a city with a few cheap guesthouses. Instead we found a series of new developments that were probably going to be the sprawl of Singapore in the next few years. We almost didn’t have enough money for one of the few hotels in the area and had to bargain to get them to let us share a single room for a slightly reduced price. This cheap bargaining mindset might not have been the one we wanted to enter Singapore with, but hey, what are you gonna do?

Into Central Malaysia: Kuantan to Jerantut

169.1 total kilometers in 2 days of cycling

1,951.3 kilometers so far

Day 29- July 3, 2015- rest day in Kuantan

 

The map of the Kuantan mini zoo.
The map of the Kuantan mini zoo.

Still not convinced we wanted to continue cycling in Malaysia we decided to take a day in Kuantan to figure out what our next move would be. And to visit the mini-zoo and beach.

 

Gibbon island- where the happy gibbons swing in circles at the mini zoo.
Gibbon island- where the happy gibbons swing in circles at the mini zoo.

The Kuantan mini-zoo is an awesome place! They’ve got a couple of great exhibits featuring porcupines and geese and ostriches and an island for gibbons. It’s cute, quiet, and free! Right next to the zoo is some sort of bicycle playground. ‘ series of tiny roads with tiny fake traffic lights and traffic circles that you can zoom around in on your bike. Then we made it over to the beach where they’ve got a couple of restaurants set up and a walkway that takes you around some cliffs over to another beach. It was beautiful and the perfect rest day.

The beach outside of Kuantan.
The beach outside of Kuantan.

To our surprise there were a couple of restaurants that were open in Kuantan. We were able to get breakfast and pick up some sandwiches to take with us to the beach. This was also where we started seeing more Chinese people who seem to be responsible for keeping the non-Muslim population fed during Ramadan.

The bicycle playground next to the mini zoo where you can bike around tiny roads and tiny traffic circles made just for you- NO TRUCKS!
The bicycle playground next to the mini zoo where you can bike around tiny roads and tiny traffic circles made just for you- NO TRUCKS!

We decided that we didn’t want to give up on Malaysia yet, especially after this unexpected gem of a day. We figured that we had hit a bad patch of days through industry and destruction, so Instead of sticking to the east coast all the way through Malaysia we would turn inland in hopes of better fortune. We had been wanting to see the famous rainforest national park Teman Negara, so we decided to cycle there and then head south to the south-western coast of Malaysia. It sounded more promising than the potential the find more of the same painful industry and trucks along the coast.

Day 30- July 4, 2015- Kuantan to Maran

88.5 kilometers

The road cycling out of Kuantan. No shoulder but not a bad place to cycle.
The road cycling out of Kuantan. No shoulder but not a bad place to cycle.

This was our first day cycling inland, which was a much-needed break from the same coastline. Today was back to highway cycling, but the scenery was a bit different – mostly rolling hills either covered with lovely forests or endless miles of palm oil plantations. At first glance these plantations are beautiful they’re this luscious shade of green that carpets the hills. But once you spend days cycling past them and realize its just monoculture that is taking over the landscape it loses all of that appeal.

Mike changing one of his MANY flat tires.
Mike changing one of his MANY flat tires.

Mike got two flat tires today – both on the rear wheel. Combined with a stomach ache, this didn’t seem like the most promising of days. We still didn’t have any good tire patches, just weak useless ones that leaked. Plus we were heading towards a town that we had heard had NO hotels. So it should have made sense for us to stop when we passed a town that had a hotel right next to a tire shop that was 15 kilometers away from our destination, but we pushed on to Maran.

The welcome sign into Maran- welcome signs across Malaysia seemed to include over-sized fruit bowls.
The welcome sign into Maran- welcome signs across Malaysia seemed to include over-sized fruit bowls.

After biking in circles around the town that is actually pretty big, we had confirmed that there was no hotel. As the day turned into evening and the Ramadan bazaars began to bustle, we were not only homeless, but also concerned that anyone running a hotel would soon be joining the crowds to find food. Some shopkeepers had told us that there were chalets to rent, but we just couldn’t seem to figure out where they were talking about. We eventually found a string of chalets next to the Maran Hill Golf Resort, but there was no one around to help us- not too surprising.

The Maran Hill Golf Resort conveniently located at the TOP of the tallest hill in Maran.
The Maran Hill Golf Resort conveniently located at the TOP of the tallest hill in Maran.

Our last hope was to hike up a pretty steep hill towards the unkept and deserted golf course to try to see if anyone was in the one building at the top – obviously not our first choice at the end of the day. But it was our only choice, and although inconveniently located we had to check since this was our last resort before we hung up Mike’s hammock and squeezed into it for the night.

 

The chalet we were so lucky to get in Maran.
The chalet we were so lucky to get in Maran.

Turns out the reception for those chalets everyone was talking about was conveniently located at the top of that hill, and we found ourselves sleeping in the only accommodation available in Maran.

Day 31- July 5, 2015- Maran to Jerantut

80.6 kilometers

Really beautiful downhill cycling through the jungles of central Malaysia.
Really beautiful downhill cycling through the jungles of central Malaysia.

The day started out beautifully. After climbing through some rolling hills the previous day, we got rewarded with a morning of coasting downhill through luscious shady jungle forests and ended up at a beautiful Hindu temple we got off at to explore.

The hindu temple hidden just outside of Maran.
The hindu temple hidden just outside of Maran.

The afternoon wasn’t quite as pleasant as the highway continues through, you guessed it, more palm plantations. It was an uncovered hot afternoon of highway cycling, but we ended up yet again in a beautiful town.

The park where we enjoyed our fast breaking meal in Jerantut.
The park where we enjoyed our fast breaking meal in Jerantut.

 

After collecting some food from the evening bazaar, we found a great park where we enjoyed our Ramadan fast-breaking dinner with the rest of the town. It seemed like we were finally doing something right and figured out how to cycle during Ramadan without being miserable. However, Jerantut was our jumping off point to a big tourist draw in Malaysia, Teman Negara, where Ramadan would no longer be an issue.

The sign posted in our hotel showing the conservative Muslim-appropriate dress code- nothing too "seksi".
The sign posted in our hotel showing the conservative Muslim-appropriate dress code- nothing too “seksi”.

Kota Bharu and the Perhentian Islands

62 kilometers cycled

(7 kilometers paddled)

Total Kilometers so far: 1,444

Day 20- June 24, 2015- Day off in Kota Bharu

The oldest mosque in Kota Bharu
The oldest mosque in Kota Bharu

Walking around the streets of Kota Bharu the next morning confirmed our presumption that Ramadan was a bigger deal than either of us had expected. We thought that finding a coffee shop and some breakfast in the provincial capital would be a simple task, but to our dismay we found all of the streets empty and the shops closed. We were lucky to find a Chinese man who made us some soup, but it just somehow wasn’t satisfying.

The Central Bazaar in Kota Bahru- note the many closed shops in the upstairs region
The Central Bazaar in Kota Bahru- note the many closed shops in the upstairs region

In the town center we found the semi-lively (half the stalls were closed) central bazaar that was a joyride for all of the senses – with the exception of taste. The aroma of sweet spices and seafood filled the market air as the women shuffled though the fruits and vegetables and the men chopped raw meat. Although we didn’t find any roasted goat or flattened bread as we had hoped, it was still a fun experience to see how the locals prepared for their evening feasts.

Looking down the wrong way of a one way street in Kota Bharu.
Looking down the wrong way of a one way street in Kota Bharu.

Later in the day we found a restaurant owned and run by a Syrian man who had moved to Malaysia to make pita sandwiches for hungry tourists like ourselves. He probably had a few other reasons for moving here.

Day 21- June 25, 2015- Kota Bharu to Kuala Besut to Perhentian Islands

62 kilometers

An incredibly confusing sign we saw daily in Malaysia. Still not totally sure what it's warning us about..
An incredibly confusing sign we saw daily in Malaysia. Still not totally sure what it’s warning us about..

Today was our day to test out the limits of the Malaysian back road network. We had read that this network was pretty limited and that we should be prepared to spend most of our time here on the highways. But we had a short day of cycling so we allowed ourselves to try smaller side roads and paths that looked promising that we had seen the night before on Google Maps. Many of them didn’t work out and we found ourselves always back tracking to the highway. One gave us a nice private bike path that took us through a thick forest for a few kilometers, another led us to a deserted white sandy beach where we took an hour snack break/swim, and the last attempt was a dead-end forcing us to walk our bikes across a weedy field to get to the road we wanted to be on.

We arrived in Kuala Besut around 4:00pm. We were planning on going to the Perhentian islands for a few days and figured that we would have to spend the night in town before we could find a boat to take us there. Instead we found a travel agency (Seven Seas) that had a boat leaving in 30 minutes so we found ourselves unpacking and repacking our bags on their floor and hastily jumping onto their boat still in our sweaty salty bike clothes. They were also accommodating with the bicycles and allowed us to store them in their shop until we came back from the islands.

July 26 and 27- Perhentian Island Side Trip:

Arriving at Coral Bay in the late afternoon
Arriving at Coral Bay in the late afternoon

We jumped on a boat from Kuala Besut only 30 minutes after arriving in the small town that is the launching point for all trips to the two small yet beautiful Perhentian Islands. We hadn’t made reservations at any hotel or guesthouse so when the boats driver asked us where we were going we kind of stared blankly at him. He probably understood that look and gave us a choice “big island or small island”. Small. And then we named one of the many beaches at random- Coral Bay- where Kiri had read there were many budget options.

We arrived in the early evening, took of our shoes, shouldered our panniers, and set off across the beach to find a place to sleep. We ended up finding Mayas where we got a good priced “chalet” (bare bones wood cabin) with a fan and a mosquito net so we were thrilled.

Sunset on the island!
Sunset on the island!

Now that we were settled in at a beautiful tropical beach, we tried to go swimming only to find that the sea floor around this beach was carpeted with dead coral and squishy sea cucumbers – hence it’s name “Coral Bay”. We walked lightly trying not to stub our toes or squish a cucumber, Mike got bit by a fish, and after walking away from the shore for a few minutes the water was still only up to our knees. We may not have picked the most swimmable beach of them all, but the sunset was still beautiful.

The mosquitoes here all seem to be dosed up on some special mosquito steroid because they were massive and everywhere. When you sleep you can either marinate in your sweaty closed room and mosquito net and only get bit a little bit or you can try to sleep in a hammock outside and get eaten alive. We chose the mosquito net.

Kiri loving getting paddled around!
Kiri loving getting paddled around!

The next day we woke up and ate breakfast- something we didn’t think we’d be enjoying during Ramadan. Turns out you can avoid Ramadan by going to any of the big tourist spots! We rented a kayak from our guesthouse and paddled to the northern tip of the island, stopping off at small relatively abandoned beaches along the way to swim or nap or just sit in the water and cool off.

The day after we did the classic Perhentian full day 6-stop snorkeling trip for only $10 each! We saw reef sharks and a single sea turtle and schools of fish and even real clown fish living in real anemones just like Nemo!

When we arrived we heard about a woman who had shown up at the guest house and had stayed for three months. A woman we met there had been there for two weeks already and had no intention of leaving. So this place obviously has the power to suck you into the crystal clear water with the rest of the scuba divers and snorklers. But we resisted, as we had two bikes waiting for us on the mainland!

Costs

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    Boat ride from Kuala Besut- 70rm each (round trip ticket)

  • Room- 55rm per night at Maya’s Guest House
  • Meals- ranged from 40rm-60rm for two people
  • Kayaking- 20rm for a full day rental from Mayas
  • Snorkling- 30rm each for a full day 6-stop trip

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Fishy feeding frenzy

DCIM100GOPRO

Deep Southern Thailand- Songkhla to the Tak Bai border (Thailand) into Kota Baru, Malaysia

(once again this map doesn’t show our exact route since google maps can’t be that precise. There were tons of unmarked back roads through this section and they were incredibly enjoyable!)

Distance– 287 kilometers

TOTAL distance of the trip 1,372 kilometers

# of flat tires still only 1 this entire trip (….annnnnd we just jinxed it)

The “deep south” of Thailand is quite a bit different from the areas that we have traveled thus far. For starters it is a more politically charged region. There are a couple of separatist groups that want various degrees of autonomy from the Thai government and law. Over the years this region has seen its share of conflict amongst the Thai authorities and the mostly Muslim population. There have been attacks across the region to create chaos and make it difficult for the Thai authorities to control the region, but these attacks haven’t been targeted at tourists. Still the presence of military tanks and regular police checkpoints gave this area a different vibe than anywhere else we had traveled through in Thailand. In fairness many of these checkpoints were unmanned painted blockades made of old logs.
All of the people that we met along the way were very friendly and very curious about our journey. They were excited to see foreigners traveling to this part of Thailand. Even those who spoke no English were able to express their amusement with our trip. We even got to take part in a couple of photo shoots with women working at our hotels who all  on us wearing our helmets and standing with our bikes  for the full effect.

They're all matching! Mikes photo shoot with the women working at our hotel in Yala.
They’re all matching! Mikes photo shoot with the women working at our hotel in Yala.

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Day 16- June 20, 2015- Songkhla to Sakom

Distance: 49.3 km

Since the real bridge was out we got to use this alternative route instead.
Since the real bridge was out we got to use this alternative route instead.

We woke up this morning to heavy rain storms, which was a great reason to extend our rest day for a few more hours. By the time the storms cleared up it was nearly noon, so we got some delicious sandwiches from a shop as we headed out of town. The ride was unremarkable and uneventful – flat and hot. The sandwiches were the most remarkable thing about this day actually! We knew that we were not going to be able to make it to our intended destination because of the late start, so we started to look for hotels on the side of the highway.
During this ride we started to notice that many of the road signs were now marked with another language in addition to Thai characters and the rough English translation we were now seeing Arabic on many signs.

The welcome sign at Leela Resort- seemed pretty self explanatory
The welcome sign at Leela Resort- seemed pretty self explanatory

We ended up staying at a Muslim resort that was not only welcoming and comfortable but also quite conservative, another reminder that we had entered a new region of Thailand. Our room was discounted because of the Ramadan holiday, which coincidentally started on the day that we started cycling in a Muslim region (more to come on this in Malaysia but suffice it to say that we will be spending ALL of Ramadan cycling in Muslim areas). We shared the empty beach with a lost herd of cows that afternoon as we enjoyed one of our first days on the beach.

Day 17- June 21, 2015- Sakom to Yala

Distance: 83.7 km

One of the first roadside tanks we saw outside of Yala
One of the first roadside tanks we saw outside of Yala

Today we made a game-time decision to change our route and head inland for a bit towards the land-locked province of Yala. Coming off of the large highways we were able to stay on back roads almost the entire day. These roads wound over and around farmlands and past the bases of some beautiful hills. The best part was we didn’t have to share them with any other vehicles for most of the day.
We chose one of the first decent looking hotels when we reachedYala. As we began to do some long-overdue maintenance on the bikes, we came across our first big technical challenge of the trip – one of the spokes on Mike’s rear tires had broken!

Finding the broken spoke in Yala
Finding the broken spoke in Yala

We knew that this was an issue that had to be fixed before going on any further. However that evening as we read the recent news in Yala and learned of explosions that had been going off last month in the town we were a little wary of venturing around the town to fix it.

But as we had said before, these smaller attacks weren’t new to the region, we knew what we were getting into, and across the board our experience in the region had been positive. In general world news tends to focus on the negative and scarier aspects of a region, and those stories end up overshadowing the many bright points of a place and the people who live there. That’s not to say one shouldn’t be wary of these reports, as we obviously were. It is to make a point that if you go into a place with a sound knowledge of the recent events, and the underlying tensions with the understanding that events like these are out of your control and shouldn’t control your actions (and don’t stay in the sketchy areas of the city) you could end up coming out with some really wonderful experiences.

Day 18- June 22, 2015- Yala to Narathiwat

Distance: 79.8

A view of downtown Yala from the hotel room
A view of downtown Yala from the hotel room

We identified some good cycle stores in Yala that would hopefully be able to fix Mike’s broken spoke so that we could get back on the road today. Mike rode Kiri’s bike around town with his wheel looking for cycle shops. He passed by people casually opening up their shops as pickup trucks carrying armed policemen whizzed by. Although most of the cycle shops weren’t open at 9 am, he was able to find one later in the morning – and the mechanic did a great job fixing the spoke! Turns out that absolutely no English is needed to get such a job done, cyclists all over the world are always willing to help out.

Our hotel for the night. When we checked in we were asked how many hours we wanted the room for.
Our hotel for the night. When we checked in we were asked how many hours we wanted the room for.

Once this was fixed we were eager and ready to get on the road so even though it was noon we loaded up the bikes, took some pictures with the excited hotel staff, and cranked out 80 km in the afternoon! The ride was scattered with some gentle hills but was absolutely beautiful, minus the military compound that was directly outside of Narathiwat. For our last night in Thailand we stayed in one of the Thai “24 hour” hotels that was on the outskirts of town – clean and cheap!

Day 19- June 23, 2015- Narathiwat to Kota Bharu

Distance 74.4

Our last breakfast in Thailand was yogurt, peanuts, and a pastry on the side of the road- in honor of Ramadan.
Our last breakfast in Thailand was yogurt, peanuts, and a pastry on the side of the road- in honor of Ramadan.

Our last day in Thailand was filled with mixed emotions. We were sad to leave a place that had been so hospitable, friendly, and even forgiving in the most difficult of situations (rainstorms, broken spokes, etc). Regardless, we were excited to experience a new country. The ride to the border brought us through a series of police checkpoints along a highway and was pretty unremarkable, as we were pretty used to seeing these by now. The border town of Tak Bai seemed pretty interesting and we stopped for our last Thai iced coffee 😦

The border at Tak Bai was not only extremely easy and straightforward, but was also lots of fun! But when you get to take a ferry to cross a border and don’t have to pay anything to enter a country, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a great experience.

Exiting Thailand for the first part of what we agreed was the easiest border crossing we've done.
Exiting Thailand for the first part of what we agreed was the easiest border crossing we’ve done.
The ferry border crossing that connects Thailand and Malaysia
The ferry border crossing that connects Thailand and Malaysia
Enjoying the ferry ride
Enjoying the ferry ride
The big buddha statue about 10k in from the Thai-Malaysia border
The big buddha statue about 10k in from the Thai-Malaysia border

During our ride to Kota Baru we found ourselves passing more buddhist temples than we had seen in our last three days in Thailand, which we hadn’t really expected since, you know, Malaysia is known for being a pretty highly Muslim country.

Later that evening once we had arrived in the conservative Muslim city of Kota Baru we found ourselves at a night bazaar that, despite the different food, looked suspiciously like the night markets in Thailand. Starving from a long day of cycling where we hadn’t been able to find too much food we bought all the new treats we could find-  murtabak (a malaysian stuffed pancake), fried noodles, blended drinks, grilled fish, stuffed squid- all ours for the buying! But unlike in Thailand, people just seemed to be sitting down and staring at their food. So we settled in and joined them in the countdown to sundown when this Ramadan fast-breaking session could finally begin. No we certainly weren’t in Thailand anymore.

Some Malaysian treats at the Bazaar
Some Malaysian treats at the Bazaar
Counting down the minutes until we can break the fast
Counting down the minutes until we can break the fast

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Week 2- Surat Thani to Songkhla, Thailand

(note- this map is not our actual route, we’re working on getting our GPS tracks online but for now this is just to give you all some idea of what we did)

TOTAL distance of week 2- 418 kilometers
Total distance of the trip so far- 1,085 km
TOTAL hours cycling- 27 hours (and 2 hours of hiking)
Average speed- 14.4 kph
# of days on the bikes- 6
# of flat tires- 0


Day 8- June 12, 2015- Surat Thani- REST DAY

Today we took the day off because well, we’d been riding for a week straight, our butts were sore and we decided we deserved it. We spent 2 nights and 1 day in Surrat Thani where we did some bike cleaning and maintenance, took a few naps, and attempted to go on a date to a highly recommended restaurant that was celebrated for being “romantic and cheap”. This date never happened because the restaurant didnt exist and after over an hour of wandering we ended up by the docks with a pizza, pad thai, and a few beers. Which honestly might have been better than whatever this restaurant had to offer!


Day 9- June 12, 2015- Surat Thani to Khanom

78.2 kilometers in 5 hours and 45 minutes of riding time
Average speed- 13.6 kph

One of the monoculture fields of palm oil producing trees (we're guessing) that have been planted all along our route. While monoculture from deforestation is obviously a terrible thing, they've at least offered us some shade.
One of the monoculture fields of palm oil producing trees (we’re guessing) that have been planted all along our route. While monoculture from deforestation is obviously a terrible thing, they’ve at least offered us some shade.

We decided that it was about time to take a beach holiday! We’d been riding along the Thai coast for a week and the water did look beautiful, even though it was a little warm. We opted not to go to Koh Samui- the island off the Thai mainland that is a popular tourist destination. Instead we looked at a map and figured that if we could get ourselves out of this city and onto the Thai coast again we could find a beach bungalow and not be surrounded by tourists. Some quick research showed that there were nice beaches in Khanom and plenty of bungalow options. It seemed like an easy laid-back beach getaway.

We arrived to find many bungalows available (and many closed for the low season). After checking at a few and stubbornly sticking to a low price that we were sure we could get we settled on a hotel we still don’t know the name of. The wall was decorated with a picture of a half-naked Asian woman on one wall and a framed picture of a motorcycle on the other. Mike spent our first five minutes killing all the cockroaches in our bathroom. Turns out that right next door was a French man who had just opened up a complex of bungalows for a nice low price with great food and beanbag chairs to relax in, so we spent most of our time there. We decided this spot was probably not the spot we wanted to stay at for our beach vacation, and started to make a plan to continue south the next day for a shorter day on the bikes and more beach time.


Day 10- June 13, 2015- Khanom to Sichon

37.8 kilometers in 2 and a half hours of hiking and 1 and a half hours of biking
Average speed- no need to talk about it

Mike on a bike
Mike on a bike

Mike’s GPS showed a three kilometer gap between where one coastal road ended and the next began. There was a national park in this gap. Still, we could not understand why Thailand would be so forgetful as to just forget a necessary section of road. So we asked a French man who was living in the area about this seeming oversight:
“Is it possible to bike through this area?”
His first question was, “What kind of bikes do you have?”I think we made it pretty clear that we were on bicycles not motorbikes which is what most people here assume we are riding when we tell them we’re going all the way to Singapore.
He said there was a road. He said it was a “clay” road. He made a wavy motion with his arm to indicate that it was hills. But he did say it was possible.

Choose your own adventure
Choose your own adventure

The next day we were forced to walk our bikes up the steep inclines of the paved road that wound up around the cliffs that looked over the sea (mind you this is the road that still exists even on the GPS; we weren’t even on our imaginary road yet). We started to think this French man might not have been exactly an expert on this area.

We followed the paved road down literally to the “End of the Road” beach resort. In front of us was a beautiful beach. In the direction we wanted to go there were cliffs. Behind us was a steeply graded hill. We asked the friendly Thai owners how to get to the other side of this nonexistent road and they agreed that yes there was a road but said it wasn’t safe.

This homestay was our last sign that the road we were about to attempt through a national park was a BAD idea!
This homestay was our last sign that the road we were about to attempt through a national park was a BAD idea!

This was not the first time we had been told that a trail we wanted to go down wasn’t safe. And we really didn’t want to backtrack five kilometers just to get to a highway that we didn’t want to ride on. So we decided to turn onto this dirt road. We understood that for a change we would be carrying our bikes up and down steep mountains, not the other way around. These cliffs were made un-ridable by the loose dirt and large rocks littered across the path. We knew we were getting into at least a three kilometer hike with our bikes and all of our belongings. And then we started talking about the potential to find elephants in this park.

One of the bigger hills we walked up here, so we had to leave one of the bikes behind, at least for a bit.
One of the bigger hills we walked up here, so we had to leave one of the bikes behind, at least for a bit.

Downhills were slow, we wore out our breaks and our knees. Uphills were an ordeal. We pushed and pulled our individual bikes up steep gradients just struggling to keep some kind of forward momentum. At times we would team up to push one bike up at a time, leaving the other sitting there patiently at the bottom of the hill waiting for us to go again. Or we would portage the things- one of us would take the panniers and the other would push a slightly lighter bike. Through some combination of these struggles we emerged on a paved road 3.3 kilometers and 2.5 hours later. The first sign we found warned trucks to take the coming declines in a “low” gear.

The views from the tops of these hills were amazing
The views from the tops of these hills were amazing
Because taking pictures seemed more pressing than helping get the bikes up the hill...
Because taking pictures seemed more pressing than helping get the bikes up the hill…
The entrance to this dirt-road, cliff-filled, seaside national park that we were about to walk all the way through.
The entrance to this dirt-road, cliff-filled, seaside national park that we were about to walk all the way through

Day 11- June 14, 2015- Sichon to Nakon Si Thammarat

72.7 kilometers in 4 hours and 38 minutes of biking time
Average speed- 15.7 kph

Side of the road stalls that sell all kinds of  yard decorations that you can find all over the country!
Side of the road stalls that sell all kinds of yard decorations that you can find all over the country!

Wanting to prove that we had learned a lesson from yesterday, we spent most of today on clearly marked, existent roads. This kept us on Highway 401 near the coast almost the entire day. Up closer to Sichon there were a few quiet back roads, some paved and some not, that took us in the direction we wanted to go in. After finishing with those we got back on the highway for 30 kilometers until we reached the town of Tha Sala. From there we had to stay on the highway to cross the river and after that we just stuck to the highway for the rest of the day. It is exhausting having semis blowing past you all day, and we tried to get off and find more back roads at a few points but those just ended up just bringing us back to the highway.

Nakon Si Thammarat is pretty much just a big industrial city, although there are some beautiful wats and gates over the highways, and lots of good street food. Once again we probably had a harder time finding a hotel than a Thai person would have because all the signs were in Thai and not many people spoke English. The only indicator that a hotel is a hotel here is the number “24” buried in the Thai writing. This is there to indicate that the “hotel” also has rooms that can be rented by the hour. There were definitely enough of those on the outskirts of town, as well as a few English guesthouse signs once we got further into the city.


Day 12- June 15, 2015- Nakon Si Thammarat to Hua Sai

90.96 kilometers in 6 hours of riding time
Average speed- 14.5 kph

The large chedi made for the buddha at the oldest buddhist temple in Southern Thailand
The large chedi made for the buddha at the oldest buddhist temple in Southern Thailand

We got a later start today again because we HAD to! Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan is the biggest sight to see in Nakon Si Thammarat. It is also the oldest wat in Southern Thailand AND it didn’t open until 8:30am. And we weren’t about to miss that!

Just casually enjoying a beautiful ride and ignoring the massive storm rolling in
Just casually enjoying a beautiful ride and ignoring the massive storm rolling in

In the later parts of the morning clouds gathered over us and a light drizzle started to fall on the road. Kiri noted that in Cambodia (where she had spent the last five months working) sometimes a drizzle is just a drizzle and sometimes it is a warning that you should take cover. We rounded a corner and saw the downpour we had been “warned” about waiting for us . We quickly pulled off and took shelter on the porch of a friendly Thai family home. When Mike was greeting the woman who lived there he pointed towards the sky and said “nam” (literally “water” in Thai- one of our few Thai words). He thought he was making conversation about the falling water that had trapped us there. A few minutes later she brought us a pitcher of water – the language barriers just keep on coming! Luckily the warm hospitality of the Thai people made nothing about this situation seem rude or intrusive.

View of the massive chedi from outside the Wat.
View of the massive chedi from outside the Wat.
Some of the decorations inside of the temple
Some of the decorations inside of the temple
The 170 odd chedis of Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan
The 170 odd chedis of Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan

Day 3, June 16, 2015- Hua Sai to Ban Kokud

82 kilometers in 5 hours 30 minutes of riding time (8:00am-4:30pm including a 3 hour stop in Ranot)

Average speed- 15.2 kph

Leaving the roads shown on the GPS to create our own route was a great decision today!
Leaving the roads shown on the GPS to create our own route was a great decision today!

This morning started with even more language barriers as we found ourselves at a Muslim restaurant for breakfast. As we entered the roadside venue, we received many curious and friendly looks and the locals warmly greeted us by clearing a table and getting us some chairs. Although we couldn’t communicate much with words, we have gotten quite used to non-verbal communication, and ordered our breakfast by pointing at other people’s good-looking food, smiling, and nodding. With the help of the other customers we were able to get a great breakfast of cold noodles in great sauce with a platter of greens to go with it all – a great way to start the day!

The morning weekly market in Ranot that we happened to be in town for!
The morning weekly market in Ranot that we happened to be in town for!

Today was a great reminder of why traveling with a flexible schedule in Thailand is a great way to enjoy not only the destinations, but also the journey. The goal of today was to go 110 kilometers to our next stop. However, our route happened to bring us though an unexpected gem of a town in the late morning that changed these plans for the better. Cobblestone roads and ornate lamp posts paved the way into the laid-back town of Ranot where we found a weekly morning market packed with clothes and food and fish from the nearby lake. We decided to scratch the plans of biking the entire 100 kilometers and spent a few hours soaking in the vibe of the town by wandering through the lively and colorful market, eating local delicacies, and napping and relaxing in the shade of some trees. After a relaxing late-morning visit in Ranot, we decided to continue cycling for a couple of more hours in the afternoon.

One thing other bikers had warned us about was dogs. So far we had a couple of minor incidents with dogs chasing after us and barking, but nothing too noteworthy. Today they were practically lining the streets waiting for us to roll through so they could chase us. Some were just short-legged yippy rat-like dogs but others more closely resembled wolves. We have found yelling and kicking at them to be effective ways to deter them. Ringing the bell seems to have the opposite effect.

Happy little sting rays!
Happy little sting rays!
Sharks or fish?
Sharks or fish?
Some of the clothing and food stalls of the weekly market
Some of the clothing and food stalls of the weekly market

Day 14, June 17, 2015- Ban Kokud to Songkhla

50 kilometers in three and a half hours

Average speed- 14.3 kph
Songkhla LakeThe three big tourist areas in Thailand seem to be the southwest coast near Phuket, the northern region around Chiang Mai, and obviously Bangkok. Since starting this trip 2 weeks ago, we have been traveling off this trail and were starting to get to the point where locals were starting to take a ton of interest in us. We’re guessing tourists almost never make it this far on the south-east coast. Mike tried to order breakfast in Thai this morning, and accidentally got us plain rice and a bucket of hard-boiled eggs, but his attempt caused all the Thai women to burst into giggles and request pictures with him.

Enjoying the free ferry ride into Songkhla! Wish we had brought our umbrella like everyone else!!
Enjoying the free ferry ride into Songkhla! Wish we had brought our umbrella like everyone else!!

Our interactions with locals in this region has been one of curiosity and hospitality, and this will continue to become a common occurrence. When we are able to explain to people that we are biking from Bangkok to Singapore we get shocked, impressed, and confused looks from the locals who cannot understand why anyone would ever attempt that without a motor. In the last week though these looks also seem to come with free snacks or bottles of water either out of sympathy or a desire to help us in this seemingly ridiculous quest.

Highlight of the day- avoiding an extra 20 kilometers of biking by taking a free 5-minute ferry across clear turquoise water to the peninsular town of Songkhla.


Day 15, June 18, 2015- rest day in Songklha

The cat and mouse statue in Songkhla
The cat and mouse statue in Songkhla

Today we were planning to take a day off the bikes and walk around and see some of the sights in the city. After wandering around in the morning for a little over an hour we were so overheated and tired of moving at a walking pace. So we got back on the bikes in the afternoon and started our own scavenger hunt of Songkhla. We took a glorified overpriced elevator to the top of a hill that overlooked the town. We fed monkeys coconut shells until one tried to steal our water bottle and Mike tried to fight it off with a spoon. We found the mermaid statue, the cat and rat statue, and the mid section and rear end of the serpent. To top it all off, no day in Thailand would be complete without a night market – and the weekend market in Songkhla is one of the best we’ve seen so far!

Songkhla skyline
Love locks on top of Songkhla
Part 1- monkey eats coconut husk
Part 1- monkey eats coconut husk
Part 2- monkey steals our precious water
Part 2- monkey steals our precious water
Part 3- Mike fights back
Pad thai at the weekend night market in Songkhla
Pad thai at the weekend night market in Songkhla
Weekend night market in Songkhla
Weekend night market in Songkhla

Bangkok to Bali Week 1: Hua Hin to Surat Thani, Thailand

Week 1- Hua Hin to Surat Thani

Biking along the Thai coast!
Biking along the Thai coast!

TOTAL KILOMETERAGE– 667.4 kilometers (414.7 miles)
Average distance per day– 95.3 km (our shortest day was 50.1 km, the longest day was 128.2km)
TOTAL hours cycling– 30 hours 30 minutes
Average speed– 15 kph (9.3mph)
# of days on the bikes– 7
# of flat tires– 1 (and it was a very slow leak)

Day 1- June 5, 2015- Hua Hin to Dolphin Bay

Breakfast on the beach at Dolphin Bay
Breakfast on the beach at Dolphin Bay

Distance- 50.1 km
2:30pm-6:30pm (3.5 hours of actual riding time)
Average speed- 14.3 km/h

After spending our morning getting our bikes checked out and looking over our routes one more time we still wanted to get started- this meant we rolled out of Hua Hin around 2:30pm. In general, it isn’t a great idea to be riding in the heat of the day in a place where it is around 100 degrees and humid every day. We had been advised to take a nice long break from 11:00am to about 2:30pm every day to avoid the worst parts of the day. As you’ll see, we still haven’t necessarily learned that lesson quite yet.

Outside our bungalow in Dolphin Bay
Outside our bungalow in Dolphin Bay

Despite the heat, we made it it Dolphin Bay relatively quickly. This is more of a touristy area which in this part of the world doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s geared towards western tourists. Many Thai’s travel locally, as well as Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and other Southeast Asian tourists. March through November is considered  “low” season, as the weather ranges from hot and humid to monsoon-like rains. For us this means either discounted prices on hotel rooms or less options for places to stay and eat because so many places are closed. So far that hasn’t really been a struggle. After checking at a few places we ended up at Moddang Resort (all their signs are in Thai but their logo is what really caught our eye- the jolly ant schlepinng the rolly suitcase around). We were the only guests at the resort, but the staff were friendly enough and the air conditioned room is exactly what we needed for a good nights sleep.

Day 2- June 6, 2015- Dolphin Bay to Prachuap Kiri Khan

Same same but different!
Same same but different!

Distance- 68.6 km
9:00am-2:30pm (4 hours 15 minutes of riding time)
Average speed– 16.2 kph

Today we fell back to our trip-leading roots and decided to implement the role of BOD (“biker of the day”). The BOD’s duties include setting the morning alarm, dragging the other person out of bed, remembering to take our malaria medicine, oh and paying for everything that day! Other duties as required. Since there are two of us, we just switch off every day. This should be a great way to balance out the expenses and to make the other person bring you snacks, water, and to find a place to sleep after a long day of biking. We are also going to try and learn a little bit of Thai, so the BOD’s responsibility is to find a word of the day.

Today as we stopped for snacks at noon we realized we were only 20 kilometers away from our destination. While the sun blazed down on us and heat waves radiated off the paved road we made the decision to just keep biking through the hottest part of the day. This led to many many sunburns.

Night Market in Kiri Khan
Night Market in Kiri Khan

We stayed at Maggie’s Homestay- Maggie wasn’t there but an older man whose done a lot of bike touring was. He gave us some tips for things to see around town including a Saturday night market where we filled up on chicken and noodles and fried fish cakes and ice cream! Night markets are everywhere in Thailand and feature some of the greatest street food we have ever had!

Coincidentally we stumbled into town on the same day as a jet skiing tournament. Unfortunately we were too busy napping to watch any of it.

Day 3- June 7, 2015- Prachuap Kiri Khan to Baan Krood

Dusky Langur SELFIE
Dusky Langur SELFIE

Distance– 73.3 km

10:00am-5:30pm (4 hours of actual riding time)

Average speed- 15.2 km/h

In case you haven’t noticed, our daily start time keeps getting later. You might be thinking that by now we would have learned that later starts mean hotter days. Today, however, we had an essential stop to make- we had to visit the dusky langurs at the airforce base outside of Prachuap Kiri Khan. These wide-eyed fuzzy playful hungry monkeys are what you would call “aggressively friendly” especially if you have anything that they think would taste good. One also played with Kiri’s iPhone for longer than expected, resulting in a curious monkey-selfie. Definitely worth the later start time on the road.

The bike shop that fixed Kiri's problem that wasn't even a problem
The bike shop that fixed Kiri’s problem that wasn’t even a problem

Today we learned an important lesson (which we’re sure we will be re-learning over the course of the trip)- any mechanical problems you are having are probably way simpler than you think they are. When Kiri’s rear shifter would no longer shift up she assumed a cable was clogged, or loose, or something was disconnected. After not being able to fix it on her own she just biked for the rest of the afternoon with it stuck in one gear. She was maybe a little cranky about this.

Before we stopped for the night we pulled off at a bike store where the owner (who spoke zero English but definitely knew what he was doing) took apart the changing mechanism on the front of my bike. After puzzling over it for a few minutes he started laughing. It turns out the bike bell I had recently fastened to my handlebar had been getting in the way of the gear shifter. All he had to do was turn the bell a tiny bit, the service was free of charge. The two of us now know a bit more about bike mechanics.

Day 4- June 8,2015- Ban Krood to somewhere outside of Chumpon town

Buddha watching over the bikers
Buddha watching over the bikers

Distance- 128.2 km

6:30am-6:00pm (8 hours of actual riding time)

Average speed- 16.2 km/h

For most of this week we have been following the routes that Chris, the owner of Tour de Thailand, gave to us. These are the routes he uses when he takes clients on trips. The GPS track that he gave us is lined with the resorts they sleep at (far outside our budget), places to stop and eat along the way, and over 100 kilometers of riding per day. His tours can do this because their clients aren’t carrying panniers and they are being supported by a van that can pick them up and drop them off wherever they please. Today we decided to attempt their suggested distance of 128 kilometers. Because we had no support vehicle and were on our fourth day of riding this wasn’t really that easy. That being said it was a beautiful day.The nice part about the routes he gave us was they got us off the highways here and took us through beautiful backroads that are much more beautiful and pleasant than the semi -filled highway. Every day so far we had spent rolling past empty beaches and palm tree forests and massive granite cliffs. And because we were cruising down quiet side roads we were able to ride side by side and make jokes about how our bike shorts make it feel like we’re wearing full diapers- as most mature adults do with their significant other.

DSC04885DSC04872DSC04871One interesting thing about the bigger roads here is that many of them have really good bike lanes and the drivers actually respect these lanes. The infrastructure for cyclists here is pretty impressive. You can count on a tire repair store (which is usually just a shack marked with a big painted tire in front of it) and a coffee or food stand (or a woman selling a bowl of her home made noodle soup) at least every 20 kilometers. The lesson we’ve learned so far is that whenever you really need it a bottle of water, cup of coffee, bowl of noodles, or bed to sleep in will appear for you in Thailand. This has so far made our first long-distance cycling adventure easier and smoother than expected, as we dont need to plan too far in advance.

Day 5- June 9, 2015- outside of Chumpon town to Kai Karnchang

Our private dock for the night
Our private dock for the night

Distance- 77 km

8:00am-3:30pm (5 hours of actual riding time)

Average speed- 15.3 km/h

Today we started out thinking we’d just take it easy. Then we started riding, and our legs and butts weren’t hurting as much as we thought they would so we just kept going. We didn’t know how far we were trying to go or where we would end up looking for a place to sleep. At this point we hadn’t had internet for four days, and were relying on the maps on Mike’s GPS- which shows roads but doesn’t really indicate towns. You kind of just have to guess if a place is a cluster of roads it probably has a guest house/hostel. Today we made an uninformed decision to follow one of these roads as far as it could go to a small fishing port marked on the map that looked like it was in the middle of nowhere. As we rode further and further into this town the road got skinnier and skinnier- the perfect biking width.

The "beautiful place"  in the Gulf of Thailand
The “beautiful place” in the Gulf of Thailand

We stopped at a few places that looked kind of like hotels- they also could have just been really lovely wooden seaport houses. After a few failures (which could have been translation failures- Mike was either asking for “water” or “hotel”) we got to the absolute end of the road. And there we found a woman who had a beautiful room balanced on stilts above the shore with a dock looking out over the sunset. So we went for a short walk around the edge of the port to a place she recommended- the “beautiful place” and watched the sun start to set on some beautiful islands in the Gulf of Thailand. It was an unexpectedly beautiful place we just happened to be lucky enough to stumble upon. Once again, our lack of planning was paying off.

Day 6- June 10, 2015- Kai Karnchang to somewhere north of Tha Chana

Biking into a storm that we never actually hit
Biking into a storm that we never actually hit

Distance- 78.2 km

7:00am- 4:15pm (5 hours 45 minutes of actual riding time)

Average speed- 13.6 km/h

Today was a slow day for many reasons- Kiri was not feeling like moving anywhere fast today. We probably haven’t done an adequate job of emphasizing how bloody hot it is here right now. When you ask any guide or guide book when to visit southern Thailand (or southeast Asia in general) they all tell you NOT between May and July. But here we are, sweating from sun up to sun down, finishing the day with heat rashes and exhaustion from the heat and sun. We have been covering ourselves with sunscreen that gets sweated off immediately, wearing silk black biking sleeves (they look like they would be extremely hot when they get soaked with sweat and the wind is whipping past you they actually cool you down). We’ve also been drinking loads of water and eating tons of snacks! To put this in perspective imagine that feeling you get when you’ve spent the day at the beach- you’re covered in a layer of salt and sweaty grime that you’ve locked in from multiple applications of sunscreen- that’s how we feel pretty much at the end of every day.

One of the small towns we passed through during this first week
One of the small towns we passed through during this first week

We tried to start this day earlier, in anticipation of the long route ahead of us. Going up a bunch of hills to start the day without much energy is a good way for someone to become cranky. We found a mini-supermarket after some of the hills and got our morning energy from a bag of peanuts, stale popcorn, and a cup of noodles.

After the morning of hills the afternoon leveled out a bit, although we faced yet one more challenge. There seemed to be a storm heading directly our way, and we were still some 30 kms from our destination.

Breakfast of cup of noodles and instant coffee at a roadside shop
Breakfast of cup of noodles and instant coffee at a roadside shop

We both wanted to push on until we got there, but we ended up finding a reasonably priced bungalow on the beach and decided that we would finish the remaining 30 km in the morning. The storm never actually rolled our way, but we were both happy that we pulled off to relax for the evening. Turns out that we were the first Americans to visit this resort as well!

Day 7- June 11, 2015- outside Tha Chana to Suratthani

One of the many roadside temples
One of the many roadside temples

Distance- 94.8 km

8:00am- 6:00pm (6 hours of riding time)

Average speed- 15.3 kph

Our one goal today was to get to Surat Thani, a larger city near the coast where we could at the very least rest, do some bike maintenance (Mike’s rear tire had a slow leak), find some wifi, and take and a day off. There also is still the possibility that we can use this city as a jumping off point to get to Koh Samui- an island in the Gulf. And so the miles kept rolling along and before we knew it we were here.

After a few days off we’ll be setting off further south through Thailand. Another ten days should see us at or near the Thai-Malaysia border. But we’ll let you know what we’ve stumbled on in a week.

We're not sure what the story with these is but we have been riding past these coconut collection centers daily!
We’re not sure what the story with these is but we have been riding past these coconut collection centers daily!
Noodle soup with tiny shrimp that we got at a local mamas house
Noodle soup with tiny shrimp that we got at a local mamas house
Artsy fartsy picture at a dock after lunch
Artsy fartsy picture at a dock after lunch
Bike maintenance on our off day
Bike maintenance on our off day
Off the dock in Prachukap Kiri Khan
Off the dock in Prachukap Kiri Khan